Last spring, the root of John Candelaria's pitching problems was easy to find. Back then, all Candelaria needed to do was look as far as his own left sleeve.
But the elbow that troubled him so during early 1986 has since been repaired by surgery and rested by a four-month off-season. Health is no longer an issue--nor an answer, nor an excuse.
Candelaria says his arm feels fine. "I threw 100 pitches today and it didn't bother me at all," he said after the Angels' 5-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs Tuesday.
So how does one explain the slow fastball and the sometimes-curving curveball that remain in Candelaria's repertoire this spring?
After surrendering nine hits and two earned runs in six innings, leaving him at 1-2 with a 3.86 earned-run average in exhibition games, Candelaria unloaded some of his frustration on pitching coach Marcel Lachemann.
"I could understand it if there was pain," Candelaria told Lachemann. "But I'm throwing free and easy. It makes no sense to me."
Candelaria told reporters that "I'm the first to admit when I stink and I'm not smelling too well right now. My fastball stunk and my curveball wasn't much better.
"If I was 20 years old and trying to make this team, I don't see why in the world they would take me. I'm not showing them anything other than I'm having a hard time pitching."
Candelaria was primarily upset over a substantial drop in the velocity of his fastball. Five days earlier, he was timed at 91 m.p.h. against the Seattle Mariners. Tuesday, his best clocking was 87 and he averaged 84.
"Right now, he's experiencing some (frustration) in trying to get some velocity," Lachemann said. "But John's more concerned about this than I am. I don't think anything's wrong.
"I know John Candelaria can pitch. His arm is in excellent condition. But John demands a lot from himself. It's fine for someone to have high standards. He expects more than mediocrity."
Said Manager Gene Mauch: "He finessed his way into some outs, but he couldn't find any zip. But I'm not going to worry about John Candelaria. I've got more to worry about than I can handle. I'm not worried and I don't think he is, either. I think he's concerned --and there's a hell of a difference."
Worried or concerned, Candelaria is definitely not a happy pitcher.
"Basic pitching knowledge is getting me through," he said. "The walks bother me, the fastball bothers me. A lot of things are not right. I very seldom get down on my pitching, but right now, I'm down.
"I'm sure that, when the bell rings, I'll be there--ready or not. But right now, I don't even feel close."
Of course, as Lachemann suggested, Candelaria is a harsh self-critic. "I'm my own worst enemy," Candelaria admits. And spring has never been his favorite season. "I've always been hit in spring training. I left one spring training with an ERA of 27.00," he said.
"In time, this whole thing will disperse. But right now, it's frustrating, knowing I'm not throwing well."
"Keep on throwing," Candelaria said, finally managing a hint of a grin. "It's like Paul Hornung says in that commercial--'Practice, practice, practice.' "
Relief pitcher Chuck Finley also had his problems Tuesday. Working the ninth inning, Finley gave up one run on two hits and two walks. What's more, one of the walks was issued to Glenn Brummer, who normally serves as the Cubs' bullpen catcher. Finley's ERA rose to 5.73, yet Manager Gene Mauch continues to take the what-me-worry? approach. "I've seen Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, a lot of great fastball pitchers get shelled in spring training," Mauch said. "If it needs correcting, let's correct it. But if it's not broken, don't fix it." . . . All was not bleak with Angel pitching, however. Donnie Moore pitched two innings, gave up a run on a sacrifice fly to Bryan Dayett and threw harder than he had all spring. "I was consistently at 91 (m.p.h.)," Moore said. "Last time, I was about 89 or 90. When I get up to 92 consistently, that's when I'll know I'm almost ready." . . . Devon White went 3 for 4 but could barely gain on club batting leader Darrell Miller, who went 2 for 4. With 15 hits in 33 spring at-bats, Miller is batting .454. White is hitting .395 (32 for 81). . . . Wally Joyner went 1 for 4, leaving his average at .203. Mauch was asked if Joyner's slow start concerned him. "What'd he do today--go 1 for 4 against a left-hander? Let's shoot him," Mauch cracked. . . . Don Sutton will start today's game against the San Francisco.